Officials have big plans for zoo and Santa Ana land

The environmental ministry says it will appeal a restraining order placed by a judge to prevent any action toward the operators of the San José zoo.

That was the word from Lorena Guevara, vice minister of Ambiente y Energía, as she met Thursday with other officials and zoo neighbors to outline plans for when the zoo is gone.

The ministry is trying to eliminate the zoo for philosophical reasons and also because of conditions there.  As reported Friday,  the zoo operator, the Fundación Pro Zoológicos, said that the temporary restraining order had been issued by a judge in the Tribunales de Justicia de lo Contencioso Administrativo. This is the judicial section that evaluates government actions.

The foundation is challenging the ministry’s decision not to renew a lease for the zoo and the Centro de Conservación de Santa Ana. The restraining order does not address the merits of the  Fundación Pro Zoológicos, which said that the 10-year contract renewed automatically because notice came late. A future trial will address the merits.

The meeting Thursday was with residents mostly of Barrio Amón. According to the plans, the current Zoológico y Jardín Botánico Nacional Simón Bolívar would become simply a biological park when the zoo lease expires next year.

The land in north San José is not being used for cultural purposes or sports, said Manuel Obregón, minister of Cultura y Juventud, according to a summary issued by his ministry. The ministry plans a joint effort with the environmental ministry.

The plan calls for native trees to be planted in the area that is now the zoo. The Universidad de Costa Rica also has proposed a section devoted to orchids, said the vice minister.

The site in Santa Ana is some 51 hectares, about 126 acres. It is the former Lorne and Elizabeth Ross property. The family donated the land in 1976. The proposal is to create a park named after Lorne Ross. The land had been owned by the family for three generations. The family is originally from Scotland.

The Fundación Lorne & Elizabeth Ross has been working for three years to create the park. The Municipalidad de Santa Ana has been behind the effort, too.

The land has been used for agriculture, including sugar cane, coffee and rice, according to the foundation, but there are old growth trees and some 70 species of birds living there, it said.

An adobe house on the property was declared a national heritage site in 1990. The foundation said it is called Hacienda La Lornessa and dates from the 18th century.

The Fundación Pro Zoológicos has been managing this property for 19 years, too, and there are some animals caged here. The environment ministry has proposed putting up a regional office there, and the Municipalidad de Santa Ana also wants the land.

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